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Department of Children’s Services


Adult Learning

Robert is currently seeking his PhD in educational psychology and research with a concentration in adult learning. Originally from Tullahoma, Tennessee he received his MS in public service management at Cumberland University and his BA in anthropology  at Vanderbilt University and came to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 2011. We asked him to reflect on some of his past and current experiences. Read his responses below.



  • Cox, R. C. & Overton, D. (2014). Identifying crosscurrents in the assessment of self-directed learning. Poster session presented at the annual conference for the International Self-Directed Learning Symposium, Cocoa Beach, FL.
  • Cox, R. C. & Ziegler, M. (2013). Assessing transformative learning: Challenges and ideas. Presentation at the annual conference for the American Association for Adult and Continuing Learning, Lexington, KY.
  • Cox, R. C. (2012). Hope, fear, and motivation in adult learning. Roundtable presentation at the annual conference for the American Association for Adult and Continuing Learning, Las Vegas, NV.

Refer to Curriculum Vita for more details

Current Occupation

Children’s Welfare and Benefits Unit
Department of Children’s Services
Lebanon, TN

Nearly eight years ago, I sat by our family’s fireplace and recognized I had been called to work in public service here in Tennessee. With good fortune, I interviewed to work in the Department of Children’s Services, where every day I utilize in-depth policy knowledge of public assistance programs to help meet the broader goal of helping preserve families.

RCox Fun Picture 1

Personal Interests

Whether we squint our eyes and look at the broadest outlines or look into a microscope to see the faintest of details, there is much to learn and wonder about in the world around us. With our interest in experiencing such a sense of wonder, my wife Sara and I like to pack up our car and head out into the world, whether out to the parks of Tennessee, the gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, or to libraries and archives where a deep sense of family and local history emerges. We also like to garden, read, and try new hobbies. Whatever the specific pursuit, the common element is a persistent desire to learn and also have fun in the process.

Future/Vocational Goals

I look forward to continuing to pursue research and to serving as an educator in the community. As an educator, it is important to be aware of how research can help improve lives and understanding. Furthermore, I enjoy engaging in systematic research, teaching, and program design/administration, and I look forward to where these interests lead.

What would you tell an incoming student who joins the program/department?

First, the UT Knoxville library system is amazing. Second, there is a lot of wisdom among the faculty. While we can locate information and calculate faster than ever before, there is no substitute for forming a well thought out question, and the faculty do not let you lose sight of this. In thinking on lessons learned at UT Knoxville, most of the difficult questions we face as a society are not ones to be solved by calculators, but by people utilizing good judgment, asking good questions, and following through a clear plan.

What do you think has been the most rewarding/challenging about this program?

Our Adult Learning program focuses on fostering and sustaining inquiring minds among students, faculty, and communities. Within our program, we drive such development through identifying what we think we know about teaching and learning—then, we challenge these beliefs, take a step back, examine them for what they are, and then refine our beliefs together. As a result, we leave the program transformed and more ready to face the challenges of furthering inquiry in a changing world.

RCox Fun Picture 2